Most observers came to Oklahoma State's spring football finale looking for a glimpse into the quarterback race, but what they got instead was an introduction to unheralded wide receiver Charlie Moore, who caught nine passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns and a strong showing from the Cowboy defense.
OSU divided its roster into two teams – one wearing Orange jerseys and one wearing Gray jerseys. The Orange team jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead before coach Mike Gundy reversed the score at intermission. The Orange team outscored the Gray team, 21-7 in the second half, but because of the flipped score at halftime, the Gray team was credited with a 31-21 victory.
Moore was the unlikeliest story of the day. A junior with seven catches for 114 yards and one touchdown in his career to date, the Bullard, Texas native exploded. After the game, Gundy was asked if Moore's effort meant anything, being that it didn't come in a game:
"You bet it does," Gundy said. "Even though it's an Orange and Gray game and your teams are split and I'm blowing a whistle and it's not a real game, there's still competition out there. Players compete and the guys that really want to make plays, they don't care what the situation is – they go out and play the game. It means a lot to me, the players that make plays out here today because this is as close as we can get to a game setting."
Gundy had quarterbacks Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh playing for both teams, with Walsh completing 16-of-27 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, Chelf completing 18-of-31 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns and Lunt completing 15-of-23 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Perhaps most impressive was that with three new quarterbacks with minimal game experience between them, the ball was thrown 81 times with no interceptions against a Cowboy defense that led the nation in picks a year ago.
While the defense may not have recorded any interceptions, it did recover a Chelf fumble to end a drive in the first quarter, turn the offense over on downs in the second quarter and force 10 three-and-outs on the day.
"I wanted our linebackers and our defense to play as well as they did this spring. In my mind that was the question," Gundy said. "They lived up to that. Watching them throughout the 14 practices and then today, they can run and get to the ball really fast. The game has moved in that direction in our opinion. You have to have speed to get to the ball fast to get those guys down because those other guys make a lot of plays. Everybody has fast guys that touch the ball now in these offenses. So I really feel like we've accomplished our goal we set three or four years ago of trying to get enough speed to run people down on defense. I think we'll be so much faster this year than we've ever been."
Defensive end Tyler Johnson made five tackles – two for loss – and had a sack to go with recovering the first-quarter fumble to lead the way for the Orange team, with linebacker Caleb Lavey pacing the Gray squad with five tackles and two tackles for loss of his own. Eight different defensive players were credited with a sack in the game, though it should be noted that plays were blown dead as defensive players were close enough to touch the quarterbacks.
"I think they played really well," Defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "So much of it ties together. If you have good coverage the quarterback has to hold the ball longer and I think we got two or three coverage sacks today because we did have great coverage in our secondary and our linebackers. That's always a heck of a bonus."
Still, the question of Oklahoma State's spring drills remains – has Chelf, Lunt or Walsh taken control of the position?
"I thought that each quarterback at times showed signs of being good enough to start next year and I thought I saw at times there were some deficiencies with each one of them," Gundy said. "I'm meeting with the offensive staff on Wednesday. It should be shortly after that when we feel like we'll have our quarterback."